Torch, Fall 1984

Reducing Stress by Dr. Charles D. Dolph T housands of books and articles have been written on stress since it has supplanted self esteem and interpersonal relationships as the newest concern in popular psychology . The detrimental effects of stress on physical health have grabbed the attention of millions of health conscious Americans who fear that if they do not reduce their stress levels they may not survive to enjoy self esteem or interpersonal relationships. Most of the literature on stress has focused on cognitive or physiological techniques which have been 8 developed to reduce the individual ' s arousal level. Since stress gets people aroused or "hyped up" physically, the techniques have been developed to help the stressed individual to exert conscious control over his body and reduce his tension level. Some of the most widely cited stress reduction techniques include breathing exercises , deep muscle relaxation, mental imagery , biofeedback exercises, and meditation . All of these have been shown to counteract stress and lead to tension reduction . These techniques have been widely published in books by Christian and non-Christian authors alike. Most techniques are quite valuable and well worth the relatively brieftime required to learn them. Alone , however, they are often not sufficient to help the stressed individual successfully overcome the stress of life . I first became aware of this when I began to teach stress reduction techniques to a person who had come for counseling . When he realized that I was teaching him deep muscle relaxation and biofeedback, he said not to bother because he had already learned those things . He said the problem was not in reducing his physical tension; he could do that. Rather, he wanted to make sense of his life which, for him , would be possible if he could understand the reason for his stress , anticipate and avoid stress, and have a good attitude toward the stress he could not avoid . Since then I have encountered a number of persons who knew the techniques of stress reduction but lacked the perspective to overcome their stress . Some of them said that when they are heavily stressed they are too discouraged to use their stress reduction skills! While stress reduction techniques can be learned from practically any self-help book on stress , it is the Scriptures that give perspective for making sense of one's life . God's Word provides a spiritual and attitudinal framework within which one may choose to use some stress reduction techniques. Psychology is very strong in the area of methods and techniques . Psychologists are very good at suggesting "how to's" for handling stress, or children , or relationships . But psychology is very weak in helping people determine the purpose for living, right or wrong life styles , and other moral issues . Therefore, in coping with stress, we must first insist on a biblical framework and then insert psychological techniques where they are consistent with biblical values and which can be adapted to accomplish biblical goals. Therefore , we first look to the Scripture to get some guidelines for coping with stress. Stress is anything which requires adjustment, adaptation, or change on the part of the individual. Stress may result from happy or distressing circumstances. Getting married or having a baby may be blessed and long-desired events; yet , no one would deny that they are very stressful in the sense that they require much adjustment and many changes by the persons involved. What should be our attitude toward stress? The